Airlines are stepping up their fight against airport charges, with a new Australasian group flexing its muscle.
Airlines for Australia and New Zealand (A4ANZ) chiefs are scheduled to meet airport representatives, government departments and ministers later this month to press its case.
The group represents airlines operating on either side of the Tasman. It includes Air New Zealand, Qantas, Jetstar, Virgin Australia and Tigerair. Its chairman, Prof Graeme Samuel, said airports were using their monopoly positions to effectively charge what they like.
"Aeronautical charges are simply imposed and its very difficult to negotiate otherwise. It is essentially because airports are monopolies.''
Samuel previously served as the chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for eight years until 2011.
''My take is that New Zealand has an even lighter regulatory regime than we do in Australia. Airlines are very conscious of every aspect of the consumer experience, from the moment they leave home to the airport, through check-in and through the retail area and to land at the other end, is affected by airport charges.''
Airport charges can be the biggest component of airfares, particularly during the low season when airlines struggle to fill planes, so have to drop prices.
Industry data revealed last week shows airport charges based on return flights on Air New Zealand can range up to $201 on the popular Tasman routes and up to $216 to Fiji.
Samuel said passengers paid for high charges at every step of their journey, including car park charges, surcharges for taxis and retail goods.
''Your bottle of water costs you a fortune because of rentals imposed by the airport is very high - if they want to get to access to traffic they've got to pay those rentals.''
He said airlines accepted that airports needed to invest in infrastructure but didn't like paying for it in advance of using it.
''If I'm going to rent out the house my tenant is not going to pay rent until they occupy it The airlines in Australia are saying no more pre-funding and I would say the airlines in New Zealand will start saying no more pre-funding.''
Auckland Airport in June unveiled its plans for new charges during the next five years.
The new fees will be subject to regulatory oversight by the Commerce Commission but airlines have already claimed they are being asked to pay $65m more than they believed was reasonable.
But Auckland Airport says its price path is reasonable.
Chief financial officer Phil Neutze said new aeronautical prices for the 2018-2022 financial years were the result of a year-long consultation process with airlines on investment plans, operations and pricing.
''They are fair and reasonable and they remain only a small fraction of the overall cost of travel. In real terms, average annual international passenger charges will reduce by 1.7 per cent per annum and domestic passenger charges will increase by just 0.8 per cent per annum over the next five years.
It had experienced much stronger growth than expected in 2014, with the number of airlines up 61 per cent in the past 22 months and the total number of passengers up 26 per cent to 19 million a year.
It will spend $1.8 billion on aeronautical infrastructure during he next five years and has plans for a second runway by 2028.
Samuel said the group also wanted to see transtasman travel made easier by making flights more like domestic services. Talks had become snagged in the past by other issues such as common currency.
''Nothing makes more common sense than to breaking down the barriers between New Zealand and Australia.''
Last month A4ANZ announced the appointment of Dr Alison Roberts as its first chief executive.
She has been executive director of policy, advocacy and innovation at the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, the national professional pharmacist organisation.
In Australia there will be a major review next year by the Productivity Commission into the regulation of airport pricing and service quality.
The ACCC is reported to be looking at how it can get more oversight over airport charges.